DES MOINES, Iowa – At Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, Pastor Mike Demastus says the staff does everything they can to ensure the safety of their congregation –including the construction of a bulletproof pulpit and a magnetic gun mount, according to WHO.
“Sometimes it makes for things to be a little awkward and uncomfortable,” said Pastor Demastus. “People don’t understand why there’s people with head pieces, you know, [they say] why are you doing that, or whatever. But it’s all about the fact that we love each other. We love each other enough to make sure that we’re gonna be safe.”
Demastus said he’d rather the people who attend his church be safe than sorry, and that some of the steps the church has taken to improve security are simple.
“We stopped advertising where our nursery is,” Demastus said. “We just want that to be something we can escort people to, instead of advertising where that’s at, because they’re our most vulnerable, the children that are in our nursery.”
Being security-minded also means being prepared to stop the bleeding, in a worst case scenario. There are medical trauma bags throughout the church facility.
And there are people in place to keep an eye on things.
“Every Sunday, we have five people on our safety team that have different posts and do different things,” Demastus said.
There are also security cameras seemingly everywhere, and even the pastor himself is at the ready, right from the pulpit.
“Right here, I have a spot where I can put my gun,” said Pastor Demastus. “It’s got a magnet, just literally sticks on there. In the front, we have bulletproof plates that literally, I can’t remember what the strength is of the plates, but they’re steel plates that are in the front of this thing, makes it really heavy. You know, if there was ever a thing, I can just duck down, you know, and be safe behind this thing.”
Meanwhile, Jeremy Sroka, with Iowa’s Department of Homeland Security, says nowadays everyone has to be vigilant at all times.
“We recommend people to remain vigilant, to be aware of their surroundings at all times,” Sroka said. “Whether at a mall, at a house of worship or a grocery [store], if they see anything that looks suspicious or odd, [we ask] that they report activity to local law enforcement.”
Sroka also says Iowa’s DHS is helping houses of worship in Iowa with security concerns by conducting assessments of their security vulnerabilities.
“We look at their security and their resilience posture,” said Sroka. “What they’re doing with equipment personnel and procedures, go through a series of questions and then provide options for consideration on how to minimize any vulnerabilities, deter threats…”